Teaching DBT Skills to DACA Recipients and Their Families: Findings From an ECHO Program

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Practice Innovations






American Psychological Association

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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) offers temporary administrative relief from deportation for undocumented immigrant adolescents and young adults who were brought as children to the United States. Accordingly, DACA has contributed to creating a different landscape of opportunities for this group. However, DACA has been and continues to be highly contested in the national political climate. Threats to DACA give rise to considerable anxiety, fear, and distress among its recipients, who face significant barriers to accessing mental health care services. Thus, a group of psychologists partnered with a leading immigrant rights advocacy organization and formed a reciprocal collaboration to understand and meet the mental health needs of undocumented communities. A major focus of the collaboration is to foster learning and support members of the immigrant community in contributing to their own well-being. The collaborative developed and delivered a stand-alone web-based mental health education session to DACA recipients and their families and practitioners serving this population. The session presented the use of dialectical behavioral therapy skills, three emotion regulation and four distress tolerance skills, as a strength-based approach to managing painful emotions and distress. Session content was adapted to include culturally informed examples for each skill. Quantitative and qualitative findings show that those who participated in the web-based program benefited from the education received. Findings also underscored participants' need for learning culturally sensitive coping strategies for managing stress. We provide recommendations on the delivery of culturally congruent healing interventions for immigrants with a focus on enhancing access among immigrant communities.